Liquid Silver Books, $5.95, ISBN 1-59578-163-3
Paranormal Romance, 2005
It’s 1946. Sarah Cassidy’s husband, the soldier John, was killed on duty about a year ago in the recently ended World War 2 and now Sarah is only slowly trying to move on with life with the help of her friends in her hometown of Fairfield. A carnival is in town and Sarah’s friend Grace believes that a trip to the carnival is just what Sarah needs to live a little again. Also, she has a friend that she thinks Sarah should meet up with and hopefully date.
Unfortunately, Sarah is more intrigued by one of the carnival attractions: a hunk built like a Greek god with intricate and beautiful tattoos covering a wide expanse of skin that is bared to the eye, and Sarah gets to see a really wide expanse indeed. I especially like how Bonnie Dee has this tattoo of an actual heart (like the one I would find in a medical textbook) wrapped in chains over the man’s heart. Anyway, when this tattooed person runs away from the carnival and turns up in Sarah’s farm, Sarah learns that this man has been a prisoner of the carnival owner Art Reed since he was an eight-year old orphan (his mother was the carnival fortune-teller) and she doesn’t have the heart to turn him to the cops or to Art. Eventually, these two fall in love but they have their work cut out for them. Our hero, Tom, is psychic but he’s not going to be of much help when it comes to predicting the problems that will besiege our unlikely lovebirds. Let’s start with the townsfolk bearing metaphorical pitchforks and burning torches. Or Art. Tom’s help is vital when a local girl goes missing but sometimes that isn’t enough to overcome the prejudices of the folks in Fairfield. Or is it?
Bone Deep is a well-written story with sensible characters. Sarah isn’t helpless or neurotic, she’s instead a heroine who may be grieving but she is also intelligent at the same time. She can make good decisions, she can lie well when it comes to protecting Tom (without bombarding me with hysterical babbling about how lying is a sin and therefore she is guilt-ridden forever), and she even comes to Tom’s rescue towards the end. What I really like about Sarah is that she fights like a lion to protect the people she loves (in this case, Tom) and she is smart enough to do a good job at that on the whole. She also falls for Tom in a realistic manner and Ms Dee doesn’t cheapen Sarah’s relationship with her late husband by suddenly turning John into an abusive freak or worse. John isn’t even a lousier lover than Tom, just different, heh. Tom has this child-like air around him, which is understandable since he isn’t allowed to function as a normal person, but he isn’t too child-like or innocent the way Pamela Morsi’s hero in Simple Jess is (or heaven forbid, any of Catherine Anderson’s deaf or mute heroines with bodies of a porn star). He can speak, he can think, he can learn, and he comes off like an adult in every way that matters so his love scenes with Sarah don’t make me want to go, “Eeek! I’m definitely going to jail for reading kiddie-porn!”
I really like Bone Deep in all the way that matters. I adore the characters, I think the tattooed hero concept is fascinating, out-of-ordinary, and sexy at the same time, and I love the story. The only reason I’m not giving this book a keeper grade is because the author offers a resolution to the issues in this story that is a little too neat and tidy for my liking. In fact, I think it’s too neat and tidy to the point that the unrealistic and overly simplistic nature of this resolution undermines the credible depictions of bigotry up to that point. Still, it’s a happy ending for the characters who deserve one after all they’ve gone through so I guess in a way that I’m fine with that as well.